Cessnock Goannas' trio Brayden Musgrove, Connor Kirkwood and Harvey Neville could be picked up by NRL clubs

ALL SMILES: Cessnock second-rower Harvey Neville celebrates with Goannas supporters after the grand final triumph against Souths at Maitland Sportsground on October 25. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
ALL SMILES: Cessnock second-rower Harvey Neville celebrates with Goannas supporters after the grand final triumph against Souths at Maitland Sportsground on October 25. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The Cessnock Goannas have moved to sign key trio Brayden Musgrove, Connor Kirkwood and Harvey Neville for 2021.

However, coach Todd Edwards admits Cessnock fans are likely to see only glimpses of the trio with all three likely to be picked up by the Newcastle Knights or another NRL club.

Edwards said Musgrove would resume with the Knights in the NSW Cup in 2021 and would be pushing for a spot in the first grade squad.

He said he believed Kirkwood had done more than enough in his breakout season to warrant at least a summer trial with the Knights.

As for Neville, "the kid is just 18 and has such raw potential," Edwards said with an enthusiasm reserved for only special talents.

Neville played rugby union at high school, and had been in the UK for a gap year when COVID-19 struck.

Back in Australia, he became the youngest member of the Goannas' squad and helped Cessnock to their first premiership in 17 years when they overcame South Newcastle 20-6 in the 2020 Newcastle Rugby League grand final at Maitland Sportsground.

"He has so much potential. He is doing stuff that very few can and it's without any of the high-level training kids get when they go into the NRL system to develop," Edwards said.

Connor Kirkwood receives the player of the final award. Picture: Michael Hartshorn

Connor Kirkwood receives the player of the final award. Picture: Michael Hartshorn

Playing at lock, Kirkwood took his game to a new level in 2020 and was rewarded with player of the final honours in the grand final.

"He has been a very talented kid, but it really has clicked for him this year and I would love for him to be picked up by the Knights to be given at least a trial over the summer.

"It has all come together for him this year and he showed he is ready for a higher level of football."

Brayden Musgrove runs in to score Cessnock's second try in the grand final. Picture: Smart Artist

Brayden Musgrove runs in to score Cessnock's second try in the grand final. Picture: Smart Artist

Edwards said Musgrove had been crucial to the Goannas' success in 2020.

"The power in his game, he is a step above the local comp," Edwards said.

It was a huge development year for the Goannas with several youngsters including Neville and Harrison Spruce stepping up and playing quality first grade football.

To combine youth development and winning a title will probably rate as Edwards' best coaching performance and no doubt his most successful, breaking a run of six lost grand finals including five with Cessnock.

Edwards said the priority over the next week was to sign all the 2020 squad members and to then look at additional players to complement the squad's strength.

Pre-season signing, NRL and Super League experienced Tyler Randall has joined Kurri Kurri and talks have just started with former NRL forward Tyrone Amey, who played in 2020 with his home club Dora Creek.

Fullback Ngangarra Barker, a Hunter product who played Under-20s at the Gold Coast Titans, will play in the Queensland Cup.